Monday, October 23, 2006

Cheap Tricks

One of the ways to win an election is to make sure your opponent's supporters don't show up to vote. That can accomplished in all sorts of ways, none of them nice, and most illegal. Generally, if you get caught, the most you face is a hefty fine. Do a Wikipedia check on "Curt Pringle" to see what I mean. This past week, an Orange County, California candidate for Congress tried his hand at this campaign tactic. Unfortunately for him, his dirty trick got noticed three weeks before the election. While the State Attorney General is still investigating, it looks like the candidate is in some hot water. From the Los Angeles Times:

At a chaotic sidewalk news conference Sunday, Orange County congressional candidate Tan Nguyen defended a letter his campaign sent to 14,000 registered voters that warned in Spanish that immigrants could be jailed or deported for voting.

"There has been no crime committed, so why is there a criminal investigation three weeks prior to a very important election?" asked Nguyen outside his campaign office in Garden Grove. It was his first public appearance since the controversy erupted last week. "What is going on? Who is fueling this investigation?"

...His speech was punctuated by outbursts from a crowd of roughly 50 that angrily demanded more information about the letter's authorship. Nguyen maintained that the letter was sent without his knowledge. But he added that, after firing the staffer he said was responsible for it, he was asking her to return because he believes the mailer was fair.

In the letter, registered voters with Latino surnames in Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim were warned "that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time…."

Former U.S. Atty. William Braniff, a lawyer for Nguyen's campaign, said Sunday that the controversy was caused by the news media and others who inferred that the word emigrado, or immigrant, included U.S. citizens. In fact, Braniff said, emigrado in the letter merely referred to U.S. immigrants who have legal status but not citizenship — and thus do not have the right to vote.

Braniff declined, however, to say why the campaign had used letterhead closely resembling that of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform without the group's permission and why it was signed by a fictional "Sergio Ramirez."
[Emphasis added]

What Mr. Braniff, the campaign's lawyer, is attempting is some awfully specious parsing. If the news media inferred that the Spanish word referred to all immigrants, including citizens, why wouldn't the immigrants themselves? And if the letter looks like it came from an organization which would know about these things, why wouldn't the reader of that letter assume that the information was true?

For all of Candidate Nguyen's whining that all of the hysteria this close to the election is suspect, he should have known better. Getting caught at this kind of dirty trick is always a possibility, especially in a contentious campaign.

The bitter irony of this is that Mr. Nguyen is himself an immigrant.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

As lawyer to the campaign, attorney Bill Braniff is obviously biased in this matter.

Guess what - so is the main stream media.

Read as a whole, the letter clearly distinguishes between citizens, and non-citizen "emigrants" (legal and illegal). The latter are NOT allowed to vote, as the letter states.

Naturalized immigrants are supposed to have passed a citizenship examination. The letter clearly URGES them to vote, in the very first paragraph:

"If you are a U.S. Citizen, I urge you to participate in the democratic process of voting."

No reasonable recipient of the letter was misled. The same cannot be said for millions of people of mainstream media reporting. They were clearly lied to by careful omission and spin into thinking that legitimate voters were being deterred from voting.

The full letter, together with an adequate translation, are posted on this site (which is clearly above reproach of anti-immigrant bias):

12:59 PM  
Blogger cabearie said...

Then why the use of a phoney letterhead and a fictitious signer? Why not send the letter on official campaign stationery. Why send it just to Spanish surnamed people?

I find it interesting that you point us to the MALDEF site without also noting that the first page in of the PDF document is a letter to the US Attorney condemning the letter and requesting an investigation into its sending.

Nice try, troll, but it just doesn't wash.

3:50 PM  

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